Surrogacy Harms Children
Arguments for legalized surrogacy often focus on “protection” of surrogates and intended parents. Effective arguments against surrogacy will always focus on protecting children.
While it’s true that surrogacy exploits women and is thus branded as a human rights violation across much of Europe, all it takes is one woman who talks about how she feels it was a beautiful gift to be a surrogate for her infertile friend/sister, and that objection falls apart. Even in exploitative cases, the woman does consent.
- The child never consents to:
- being one of the 93 percent of embryos which don’t survive
- losing a biological parent
- losing his or her birth mother
- being raised in a motherless home
It’s important that laser-beam focus be trained on the child as the victim, not the adults who want a child, or even the woman who offers her womb.
1. Surrogacy Is Not Pro-Life
All surrogacy is a product of In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Only 7 percent of lab-created children will be born alive. [i] IVF in general, and surrogacy specifically, is never child-friendly.
Inherent in the IVF procedure is the gaming wheel of chance that human beings will survive the embryo transfer process and successfully implant. Those embryos deemed “nonviable” are discarded, and excess embryos are either donated to scientific research, or placed in a frozen limbo where they may or may not have the privilege of being transferred to their mother’s uterus; that is, if they even survive the thawing process. [ii] Those humans who successfully survive [iii] and implant run the risk of being aborted “selectively reduced” (Note: abortion is routinely included in surrogacy contracts as it serves as both quality control and quantity control). When adults hold up their beautiful surrogate-born child in the committee meeting, we should remember the 93 percent who didn’t survive.
The In-Vitro Fertilization process often involves the preimplantation screening of blastocysts in order to not only determine the likelihood of implantation success or miscarriage, but also screen for chromosomal abnormalities such as down syndrome, and inherited genetic anomalies such as breast cancer, cystic fibrosis, and spinal muscular atrophy. After these blastocysts are screened, only the ones determined “genetically healthy and normal” are transferred for implantation.
Researchers have found, however, that embryos with abnormal cells have the ability to self-correct, or, push the abnormal cells out and replace them with normal cells. As stated by Dr. Craig Turczynski, “…there are plenty…of cases that should have resulted in pregnancy and didn’t …there are…embryos that by all conventional measures should never have resulted in a baby, and yet they did. These types of embryos were the only ones available and if they had been subjected to selection by a trained eye, they would have been discarded.” How many babies would be alive today if they were not subjected to “ quality” screening?
#BigFertility’s million-dollar ad campaigns communicate that surrogacy is all about babies. Their practices reveal that surrogacy is actually about designer babies. It’s an astonishingly eugenic practice to decide which human beings are unworthy of life because they may have a genetic affliction, and to weed out those children who are “undesirable” for one’s own financial benefit or convenience.
Surrogacy treats children as products which can be designed, purchased, and delivered to adults who can afford them. This impacts a child’s self-image and familial relationships. When you are commissioning and swiping your credit card for a product, even one that you want badly, you are participating in commodification, regardless of whether the intended parents are the biological parents of the surrogate-born children. In this case, the products are human beings.
How do children feel about being designed, purchased, and delivered to their “intended parents”? A recent Harvard Medical School study revealed that 62.2% of children conceived through donor technologies found the commercial nature of gamete donations to be unethical, and a higher percentage of younger participants believed that the exchange of money for donor gametes was immoral. One may think that it’s outlandish to suggest that badly wanted children could possibly be “products,” but by their own admission, this is exactly how many of them feel:
I’m the child of a stranger, who altruistically sold me, his biological daughter, to a family he would never meet. He signed away his rights to be a father to me, and my parents gladly bought the gift that would give them a child…How can anyone sell a person? Sure, at that point it was just sperm, but it was sperm being sold with the intention of becoming a child. Why is it legal for a doctor to allow a child to be created with the purpose of being cut off from biological family to make the recipient parents happy? The process commodifies real human beings…I was born as the result of a profit-driven medical clinic selling parental rights without regard for what is best for the end product, the child produced.
I’m sorry to tell you this, but parenthood isn’t something that you can buy on a contract. It’s a biological process when a man and a woman conceive a child together, preferably in the marriage bed. Naturally, if manipulative man-made technology didn’t exist to corrupt the conception process, it would be the egg ‘donor’ who would carry the child, birth the child, fall deeply in love with the child and raise the child. She has my eyes, my ears, my nose, and my personality. Therefore, she is my mother. But don’t take my word for it. Why don’t you do yourself a favor and research the medical definition of a mother yourself? Does it say anything about how contracts and money decide parentage? Tell me.
2. Surrogacy Separates Children From Parents
There’s no right to commodify children, even if those children end up leaving the hospital with their genetic parents. But surrogate-born children very often do not. Many are created using a sperm and/or egg donor, resulting in intentional separation from their biological mothers and fathers. For children, that’s a problem for two reasons- safety and identity.
While third-party reproduction is relatively new, the impact of being raised by an unrelated adult is not. After studying family structure for decades, we now know that when it comes to maximizing safety in the home, biology matters. Children who are raised by their married biological mothers and fathers are statistically more likely to be safe and loved. While there are exceptional step-parents in the world, statistically, children with step-fathers fare about as well as children raised by single mothers. Which is to say, poorer than their counterparts raised in in-tact homes. Worse still, unrelated cohabiting adults, especially men, are statistically the most dangerous person in a child’s life.
I am egg donor conceived…My current Mother…well growing up never accepted me…or even really cared to grow a bond with me…It makes sense why now. There is a massive disconnection due to IVF. My relationship with my father has always been the greater of the two.
...And now I knew that I HAD known [that my father was not my biological father], somehow, all along. Because the main emotion I felt in this loss of the only dad I had ever known was relief, relief because I had never loved him as I thought I should, as I knew in my heart that he did not treat me as the treasured daughter I longed to be. I had always wondered why. And now I knew.
...We were forced into a relationship that was a fallacy from the start and that’s probably a big part of why it didn’t feel real to either one of us. I like to imagine that he would have been a better father to me and I would have been a better son to him if we had actually been biologically related…Maybe if the sperm bank had sent him a ‘good son’ he would still be alive.
Genetic parents are the only two people who provide something children crave- their biological identity. A study of young adults conceived through sperm donation confirmed that for kids, biology matters:
- More than half (59 percent) say “I sometimes wonder if my sperm donor’s family would want to know me.”
- Sixty-five percent of donor offspring agree, “My sperm donor is half of who I am.”
- When they grow up, donor offspring are more likely to agree, “I don’t feel that anyone really understands me.”
- More than half of those surveyed, 53 percent, agree, “It hurts when I hear other people talk about their genealogical background.”
- One-third (33 percent) of those born to lesbian moms say “The circumstances of my conception bother me.”
These consequences are evidenced by the stories of donor-conceived adult children:
I’m personally against [egg donation], based on how I feel about my conception and my life. It bothers me that I cost money, that the one woman I want most in this life is a stranger yet 50% of me. Sometimes I wish I weren’t born. I didn’t ask for this, and I never would have consented to it.
My mom payed thousands of dollars for my creation, so for me to just tell her that I want to know where half of my DNA has originated, for me to tell her that I want to look the man that is my biological father in the eyes, for me to want more than just her in my life, it’s wrong. She spent so much money because she knew that a child of her own would make her happiest, but how happy can an unhappy child make her?
When it comes to kids, it takes more than love to “make a family.” #BigFertility ignores the self-evident importance of biology to the detriment of children.
3. Surrogacy Severs The Maternal Bond
As stated by adoption expert Nancy Verrier, “…the primal wound occurs when a postnatal separation from the biological mother imprints the infant with a sense of abandonment and loss. The nine month bond with the biological mother—her smell, feel, taste, and sound—are all gone. The loss of the child’s primordial loving, caring, and protective relationship can be indelibly imprinted on the unconscious mind as a traumatic injury.”
Studies show that maternal separation, a feature of surrogacy, is a major physiological stressor for the infant and even brief maternal deprivation can permanently alter the structure of the infant brain. Many adoptees argue that the trauma they suffered at birth has manifested itself as depression, abandonment/loss issues, and emotional problems throughout their lives, which has hindered attachment, bonding, psychological health, self-esteem, and future relationships. As stated by adoptees:
…this foundational profound experience of loss has long-term effects: in fact, life-long effects because the loss has occurred before long-term conscious memory has formed to help process the experience, before skills are learnt to manage the experience, before the intellect has developed to rationalise the experience. It is…that person’s foundational experience of life outside the womb and will remain part of that person throughout their adult life and we testify that removal from the mother at birth has lifelong physiological, psychological and emotional impacts…
Being adopted is so hard. It has affected my relationships, marriage, perception of self, and struggle of self-worth. And it has nothing to do with a lack of love. I am so loved by my parents and husband, and I have an incredible relationship with them. But my pain, struggle, and heartache are from being separated from my birth mother (the primal wound), and no amount of love can pour into this hole or be fulfilled.
Many pro-life allies are hesitant to acknowledge the primal wound, fearing recognition of maternal loss in adoption fuels abortion. Yet pro-lifers who are staffing pregnancy resource centers understand the importance of the in-utero, mother-child bond, and they rightly encourage it. We don’t immediately place a newborn on the chest of random strangers so they can forge a bond. We place babies on their mothers’ chests because they have an existing bond. In adoption, children experience this wound due to tragedy. Surrogacy inflicts this wound intentionally.
At Them Before Us, we are clear: adoption is an institution centered around the needs of the child. #BigFertility is a marketplace centered around the desires of adults. While children in both households experience a familial wound, adoption seeks to mend that wound. #BigFertility creates it. Here are two self-identified “products of surrogacy” describing their primal wound:
Something horrible happened to us at birth. We lost our mothers. They did not die, but they might as well have been dead because we lost them in the capacity of mother, and to a tiny baby, that feels like death…That makes us feel very rejected. That leaves a hole in our hearts whether we admit to it or it manifests some other way like in depression or a fear of getting close to someone else…Sometimes it doesn’t show up until we are in our teens or [are] young adults, and like me sometimes it shows up as a baby when I scream my head off for six weeks and they call it colic…Nothing can console us…I wanted my mother and she wasn’t there…You can’t just substitute mothers and expect us to be OK with it.
When I was blessed to find my birth mom I subsequently developed relationships with my extended family. At 26, for the first time in my life, I saw where I got my sense of humor from, my physical traits etc. Even though I hadn’t grown up around these people, the genes from this side of my family are what is dominate in me. I finally made sense to myself in ways that I didn’t understand was possible…However, I still deal with…other…issues of what makes me different in my biological mom’s eyes. How can she consider the children that she intended to have her children, and the children she had through surrogacy not equals…As a product of surrogacy, when I express this viewpoint to others, I am told, look how much your parents wanted you, they planned and saved to have you. You should be grateful and thankful for them. But at the end of the day, the adults were looking out for themselves, and what they needed and wanted…
In summary, a just society cares for orphans. It doesn’t create them.
4. Surrogacy Endorses Motherless Children
Surrogacy splices what should be one woman- mother- into three “optional” women: genetic mother (egg donor), birth mother (surrogate) and social mother (daily maternal presence). Each mother offers something that children need, and, indeed, have a right to.
In addition to commercially separating children from their biological parents (loss of genetic mother) and inflicting a primal wound (loss of birth mother), surrogacy makes possible the biologically unthinkable option of intentionally motherless children- the loss of the daily presence of a mother in their home. Surrogacy has become a popular option for single men and gay couples, with entire conferences and agencies devoted to creating motherless children. While gay men may be good fathers, they can never be a mother.
Mothers provide comfort, nurturing, and a fulfillment of emotional needs, which originates through the deep attachment initially formed through pregnancy. According to psychoanalyst Erica Komisar, maternal presence is especially critical during the first three years of a child’s life. Mothers soothe distress and help regulate a child’s emotions “by making sure that their emotions do not run too high or too low.” [iv]
Mothers (and fathers) are essential to the healthy, well-rounded development of children, and it is an injustice to intentionally deny children a mother. Not only do mothers distinctly benefit child attachment and development, but children also crave maternal love. When it’s missing, they experience what we call “mother hunger” even if they are well loved by their father(s):
My formative years were almost entirely devoid of women. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a mother until I watched “The Land Before Time” at school. My 5-year-old brain could not understand why I didn’t have the mom that I suddenly desperately wanted. I felt the loss. I felt the hole. As I grew, I tried to fill that hole with aunts, my dads’ lesbian friends and teachers. I remember asking my first grade teacher if I could call her mom. I asked that question of any woman who showed me any amount of love and affection. It was instinctive. I craved a mother’s love even though I was well-loved by my two gay dads.
I live with 2 dads…one of them is my biological dad and one of them isn’t. My biological mother (who gave my dads her ovum for my birth…) comes to my house often. She’s 38 and my dads’ long time best friend…I want to call her my mom but my dads always get mad when I try…actually I’ve already called her mom when my dads are not around and she liked it…she and I have lots of connections with each other.
If we want to spare children the pain of genealogical bewilderment (separation from genetic mother), primal wound (separation from birth mother), and mother hunger (loss of daily maternal presence) we will oppose surrogacy and insist that, except in tragic cases, all three mothers reside in the same woman.
Children have a right to life and a right to their mothers and fathers. Surrogacy violates those rights. Children are not commodities to be purchased, cut and pasted into any and every adult relationship. Further, the commercial separation of children from their mothers has already lead to baby-selling rings, trafficking, and baby hoarding, all of which exemplify what surrogacy is at its core: a marketplace of human beings. Not only must contracts remain unenforceable, but this must be the first step in the total abolition of surrogacy.
Q: But what about the parents who have to adopt their own biological children?
A: If proponents are using this line of reasoning, then insist that only couples who are always using their own gametes can hire surrogates. However, you will find out very quickly that they want any/all arrangements, not just biological parents. The question that should be asked in regard to surrogacy contracts is: “How exactly are the best interests of the children being protected?”
Q: What about adults who use their own gametes and don’t destroy any embryos. Is surrogacy okay then?
A: If those pursuing the IVF process can do so in a manner that doesn’t violate any conceived child’s right to life or to his or her mother and father, then great. However, this is extremely rare, if not impossible. Of the number of eggs retrieved, which is around 10 to 15, about 70 to 80 percent will fertilize, and between one-third and one-half of these embryos will actually implant.
Even if only one embryo is transferred, which does not typically occur due to the cost of IVF, human beings are still being treated beforehand as potentially disposable. There is no guarantee that that one created embryo will transfer successfully and become his or her fully-developed self. A unique person’s life is still intentionally treated as disposable, whether one embryo or ten are created, and humans are always being commodified.
Also, if proponents are arguing that IVF, and therefore surrogacy, are fine if adults are using their own gametes and no lives are lost, we must remember that primal wound is always a risk. Children born of surrogacy always lose their birth mothers. While some children are separated from their birth mothers due to tragedy, it’s an injustice to sever that bond intentionally.
[i] In 2012, it was reported that “more than 1.7 million embryos prepared with the aim of helping women become pregnant have been thrown away since records began 21 years ago,” and that only 7 percent of lab-created embryos are brought to term.
[ii] A study published in 2011 revealed that a total of 1,991 zygotes, 2,880 embryos frozen three days after fertilization, and 503 blastocysts that were of “good quality” were thawed. The thawed survival rate was 69% for zygotes, 85% for day three embryos, and 88% for blastocysts. While having seemingly high success rates, the percentage of “good quality” humans who died during the thawing process causes concern.
[iii] In 2017, the general IVF success rates for women younger than 35 were 57.4% per cycle, only a 12% success rate for women ages 41 to 42, and the risk of miscarriage for women over 40 also increases to 50% or higher. Singletons conceived through IVF are also 2.4 times more likely to die, 2.99 times more likely to be born prematurely before 33 weeks, and 3.78 times more likely to be underweight. It’s also been found that the risk of miscarriage in singleton pregnancies conceived through IVF is greater than the risk in spontaneously conceived singletons.
[iv] When mothers and babies are separated, they each produce more of the stress hormone cortisol causing a baby or toddler to become anxious. Erica also states that she’s “seen an epidemic of troubled children who are being diagnosed and medicated earlier and earlier with ADHD, early aggression, and other behavioral and social disorders,” as a result of a child’s inability to regulate emotions in response to stress in the environment. All of this is due to mother’s not being present enough. Mothers and fathers, from a biological perspective, can’t be interchanged. Babies need sensitive nurturing for their brain development. A mother is more of a sensitive nurturer, as a mother is more emotionally invested in her child and more committed to his or her safety and survival. At the same time, other caregivers and fathers do not have the same instincts. “The more emotionally and physically a mother can be present for a child in the first three years, the better the chance that child will be emotionally healthy and mentally well.”